Pesticide training essential
By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY ó Each year in the U.S., more than 110,000 pesticide poisonings are reported by poison control centers. Combine this with about 23,000 emergency room visits each year for the same reason, and you can see why pesticide safety is so important.
Pesticide exposure is one of the major health risks for all farm workers, especially those responsible for application. Even though the EPA rigorously tests each new pesticide before its release onto the market and enforces strict pesticide safety regulations, thousands of farm workers are still exposed each year, partly because information and training on pesticide safety is almost always given in English, while most U.S. farm workers are native Spanish speakers.
Misunderstanding and miscommunications about pesticide safety not only affect farm workers, but also those living in homes with farm workers. In a study by the Agricultural Health Study of Iowa and North Carolina, pesticides were found in farm workersí homes on almost every surface, including childrenís toys and play areas, surfaces where food is prepared, and even in carpet dust (http://aghealth.nci.nih.gov/pdfs/IAPesticideResiduesAtHome2007.pdf).
The N.C. Agromedicine Institute recognized this dangerous trend and developed a new, crop-specific pesticide safety training toolkit available in both English and Spanish. Currently available crops are tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, landscaping/turf, cucumbers, green peppers, grapes, strawberries and tobacco. More information can be found at http://service004.hpc.ncsu.edu/toxicology/extension/pesticides.htm or by contacting Catherine LePrevost at 919-515-2274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This new toolkit is up-to-date with all commonly used pesticides included, but it can also be modified to fit the needs of a specific farm or landscaping business. The toolkit has also been approved by the EPA for federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS) worker training requirements.
Upon completion of the training, trainees will receive a WPS Worker Verification Card from the EPA which is good for five years. All materials given to trainees are provided in their native language to increase awareness and understanding, and trainees are encouraged to post these materials in an area that is frequently visible so the content is constantly reinforced. Employers may also choose to post these materials in high-traffic work areas along with other important work information.
North Carolina isnít the only place where the increased risk of pesticide exposure to non-English speaking farm workers has been noticed. The EPA is examining a petition that, if passed, will require bi-lingual (English/ Spanish) labeling of all pesticides by manufacturers based on the fact that most U.S. pesticide applicators are native Spanish speakers with little to no ability to read or speak English.
The original EPA announcement can be found at www.regulations.gov under EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0014. Comments will be accepted on this website until the EPA makes its final decision.
If you would be interested in learning more about this innovative new pesticide safety training toolkit or would like to host this training for your employees, contact the Rowan County Cooperative Extension at 704-216-8970.